Diabetes - physical activity

Diabetes - physical activity

Regular physical activity is important and benefits people of all ages. It includes anything that gets your child/young person moving. It is not necessary to join a gym or buy expensive equipment at home.

Key points to remember about diabetes and physical activity

  • it is important to encourage children/young people with diabetes to be active as part of their daily routine

Diabetes and physical activity

Regular physical activity is important and benefits people of all ages. It includes anything that gets your child/young person moving, including walking to and from school, running around the house or in the playground at school, chasing the dog, organised sports, or even helping with housework! It is not necessary to join a gym or buy expensive equipment at home.

How does physical activity help with diabetes?

Physical activity helps to:

  • lower blood glucose levels
  • improve insulin sensitivity (the ability of insulin to work in the body)
  • manage weight within healthy range
  • strengthen muscles, heart and bones
  • increase flexibility and body coordination
  • increase energy levels
  • improve self esteem and confidence
  • improve overall wellbeing

Being active as part of daily routine

It is important to encourage children/young people with diabetes to be active as part of their daily routine – at home, at school and at play, and also throughout adulthood. Physical activity should involve the whole family for both support and overall health benefits.

If your child is using insulin therapy, your local diabetes team will discuss with you all aspects of balancing blood glucose control, insulin dosage, carbohydrate intake and physical activity, in relation to hypoglycaemia. The care plan for certain types of physical activities may be different and your child will be given individualised guidelines regarding exercise.

Diabetes and tips to increase level of physical activity 

  • every activity counts!
  • involve the whole family
  • see activity as an 'opportunity' not inconvenience
  • think of fun activities that your child/young person likes doing
  • look out for activities for children/young people in community newspapers, or at your local community centre, social clubs and teams
  • limit time for inactivity such as watching TV, playing video or computer games
  • avoid driving when walking is possible - walk to the dairy, for instance
  • find ways to be active - park the car further from your destination, take the stairs instead of the lifts
  • take children/young people to the park and beach on a nice day and encourage activities there
  • encourage your child/young person's friends to visit and play
  • be a role model - be active! Support and encourage children/young people to participate in activities and try out new ones
  • a pedometer may help to motivate your children/young person and yourself to make every step count (you can have a competition in the family!)

The Paediatric Society of New Zealand acknowledges the cooperation of the Starship Children's Hospital, Auckland District Health Board. The content on this page has been produced in collaboration with the National Clinical Network Children and Young People's Diabetes Services.

This page last reviewed 09 August 2016.
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